Less than a month before Donald Trump won election as president, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the release of a first-of-its-kind National Park Service “theme study” identifying places and events associated with the history of LGBT Americans.
At an Oct. 11 ceremony at the Interior Department headquarters, Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said Park Service officials expected to review in the near future more than 100 new LGBT-related historic sites proposed by the study, which was headed by nationally recognized lesbian anthropologist Megan Springate.
Jarvis said the sites would be considered for designation in the National Register of Historic Places, as a National Historic Landmark and possibly for the government’s most prestigious recognition as a National Monument.
But following Trump’s election and calls by many of his supporters to “drain the swamp” in Washington, some government insiders have expressed concern that Jewell’s and Jarvis’s replacements might scale back or kill the LGBT historic sites project.
Others have speculated that an Interior Secretary hostile to LGBT rights might rescind the dozen or more LGBT sites already designated as historic landmarks, including the site of the Stonewall Inn and surrounding streets in New York’s Greenwich Village. That site, the location of the 1969 Stonewall riots, was designated by President Obama earlier this year as the first LGBT U.S. National Monument.
“I’m not going to speculate on what another administration might do,” said Jeremy Barnum, public affairs officer for the National Park Service. “We only have one president at a time and we’re going to act accordingly,” he said.
Barnum said he believes Springate’s job at the National Park Service, which includes facilitating the LGBT theme study’s recommendations, would continue under the Trump administration.
The National Park Service hired Springate in early October as an Interpretation Coordinator in the NPS’s Cultural Resources Office of Interpretation and Education, Barnum said.
“In this permanent civil service position, Ms. Springate helps coordinate the NPS’s efforts to tell all Americans’ stories, including the LGBTQ community, through the publication of theme studies, teaching with historic places lesson plans, heritage travel itineraries, and other initiatives,” he said.
Initiatives related to African Americans, Native Americans, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, and other diverse population groups fall under Springate’s job duties, according to Barnum.
Barnum noted that between the time that Springate worked on the study and the time it was completed and published on Oct. 11, funding for the study came from the Gill Foundation through the National Park Foundation, the official charity of U.S. parks.
A spokesperson for the incoming Trump administration’s Presidential Transition Team couldn’t immediately be reached to determine whether the president-elect or his incoming officials at the National Park Service would have objections to the LGBT theme study and Springate’s work.
Joseph Murry II, one of Trump’s gay Republican supporters who serves as administrator of the pro-Trump Facebook page LGBTrump, said he believes Trump and his administration would support the LGBT historic sites project.
“I do not think Donald Trump, based upon his track record, would say to the National Park Service fellow or to the Secretary of the Interior do not move forward with this program,” Murry told the Washington Blade.
“I actually think he would support it,” he said. “And I think his outreach to the LGBT community, as evidenced not just through his presidential run but his entire career as a businessman, and of course in New York City with the help of a big LGBT population, I think he would probably respect it.”
Murry, who is based in Mississippi and has worked for conservative political figures in the past, said there is always a chance that a Trump Secretary of the Interior would try to quietly “quash” the LGBT historic sites project.
“But I think if it were brought to Trump’s attention he would probably override the Secretary of the Interior,” said Murray.
Gay Republican activist James Driscoll, who has supported Trump since the president-elect first announced his candidacy, said he believes Trump’s LGBT supporters would urge Trump to back the LGBT historic sites project.
Those who know Springate say she is highly qualified for the position at the Park Service. She holds an undergraduate and master’s degree in anthropology and is close to completing her Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Maryland, where she has served as an adjunct professor since 2012.